I was busy giving casting lessons today. Even though it was cold and windy, everybody showed up, stuck it out, learned something and had a good time — including me. I love teaching casting, so for me it was great. I had two different groups totaling 21 people. The first group ended at 11 a.m.; the other started at 11:30 and lasted until about 2 p.m.
These were totally different, unrelated groups, yet they had a consistent common thread of both questions and casting faults. There are always common faults among casting groups, but the percentage was up a little higher on this one.
The casting fault most prominent today was outside rotation of the rod, causing an open horizontal backcast loop. Sorry, no illustrations — but what this does is to cause the back cast to be slow and inefficient (and if there’s any wind, nonexistent). This poor back cast makes it much harder to compensate on the forward cast and throw a good loop.
To picture this, imagine gripping the rod with your thumb right on top of the cork. You are looking right down your thumb and thumbnail and the skinny part of the reel is straight up and down. Now make your back cast and stop.
If you leave your hand exactly where you stopped it, you’ll be looking at your thumb and thumbnail on the side of the rod closest to you and it will be pointed behind you. The flat side of your reel will then be facing the sky. If you do it correctly using the “thumb on top” grip when you stop the rod on your back cast and look, you will see the profile of your thumb pointing almost straight up (like you are hitchhiking and you won’t be able to see your thumbnail) and the flat side of the reel will be facing you, meaning that the skinny part of the reel is still facing forward with no rotation.
I know, I know; casting babble — but each one of these students who were able to understand and correct the problem all had great big smiles on their faces from the nice casts they were able to make, and from the fact that I didn’t hit them with my cattle prod.
Both classes also asked questions about which fly line to put on their rod. “Should I go up a weight by putting a 9-weight line on an 8-weight rod?” My old answer to that question still stands to a certain degree: If you learn to cast well, you shouldn’t need to bump up your line weight. But I can tell you that selecting the right fly line for your fast action fly rod isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Fly lines have become increasingly specialized. You can buy a line for any species of fish alive, for any style of fishing, for specific destinations, and now Winston has started selling lines specifically for their rods. I’ll be really surprised if all the rod companies don’t jump on that bandwagon in hurry. Why not? They can make more money and have the lines all balanced perfectly with their rods. That would make it too easy on us. Like politicians, they want to keep us guessing.
The decision is further complicated by the action of today’s rods, especially the fast action rods. The exact fly line which works for you and your fly rod is best determined by trial and error. Let’s see if we can cut down on some of the confusion.
What makes your rod fast? In the not so distant past, “fast” meant stiff, or at least stiffer. The way rod designers made fly rods faster was to throw graphite at what they thought was the problem. These rods became so stiff that many anglers struggled to load them — the proverbial broomstick.
Line manufacturers responded by making heavier fly lines. It didn’t take long for experienced anglers to realize that they were putting 9-weight lines on their 8-weight rods and start to ask, “Why are we calling this an 8-weight, anyway?”
The term “fast” now refers to the recovery rate of the rod — the time it takes for the rod to return to straight from a flexed position. The less time it takes to recover from the flex, the faster the action in the rod. So as consumers and the industry were scratching their heads and complaining, rod companies started to respond by making fly rods with more reasonable actions.
A new type of fast action rod started to emerge. These rods had fast recovery rates — not because they were stiff, but because they were light. Rods that weigh less recover more quickly because there is less inertia developed by the weight of material and hardware. Now the problem has almost reversed, because these rods can easily be overloaded with the heavy lines developed for stiffer rods or by simply having to line outside the rod tip. Maybe we need to rig our 8-weight rods with 7-weight line.
Neither of these rod styles is wrong. Stiffer and heavier rods still perform best in the wind and are great fish-fighting tools. Lighter, more technical rods and lines make beautifully delicate presentations. So, yes, we still have to make choices. When you choose a fly rod and line, you should consider the kind of fishing you plan to do and decide which qualities you will need. I lean toward the heavier rods just because you can power them up in our windy situations here and they won’t collapse.
If you want to talk rods, lines or casting give me a call or drop me an email. When the wind lies down a little, let’s go fishing!
Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.